Wednesday 16 January 2019

'We're a mile off where we can get to'

Leinster 22 Ulster 7

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin scores one of his tries against Ulster
Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin scores one of his tries against Ulster

The inability of Leinster to turn three tries into four, thereby four points into five, must have gnawed away at coach Leo Cullen all Saturday evening.

"If we want to be serious about progressing in two tournaments, there's a lot of areas we can be better at and that's the challenge for us," he said.

"Where are we at? It's hard to put a number on it, but we're still a mile off where we can get to so there's a lot of things we can do better."

Man-of-the-Match Rory O'Loughlin's second try in the 42nd minute left a lot of time, maybe too much, for Leinster to complete their mission.

Ulster were down and out, still making mistakes, still overplaying their hand with ball-in-hand, still untidy at the breakdown.

However, Leinster lifted the opposition's confidence by feeding long, loose ball out of defence to Charles Piutau and his back three friends.

It made about as much sense as Ulster's score at that point - zero.

Quite simply, Leinster played like they were holding on to a lead rather than pushing to extend it.

"I think there's a bit of frustration, clearly, even the level of questioning that we're all receiving as well," stated Cullen.


"There seems to be a sense of frustration because you score three tries in the first 42-43 minutes and everyone probably expects you to kick on.

"But you wind the clock back and it's a good Ulster team and they held on to the ball really, really well for 30 minutes.

"We probably just grew frustrated ourselves, which didn't help the way we were trying to play the game."

The fact is this was a Leinster forward eight stacked with Ireland internationals, lacking just Tadhg Furlong, against an Ulster combination without Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst and Iain Henderson.

They should have known better than they showed.

"The problem is a lot of the possession was in our '22' and we were trying to relieve pressure.

"But we definitely lacked composure," said Cullen.

"We're still working on various combinations as well, so they hadn't had a huge amount of prep time coming into this game.

"We're coming off a five-day turnaround, we're reshuffling the team.

"There's loads of challenges this time of year. You are not going to expect it to be perfect."

Leinster have been far from convincing in taking four points from their last two games to leave them in third.

At present, the Blues sit five points behind the leaders Munster comfortably inside the top four.

This is the sort of missed chance for an extra point that could come back to bite them at the rear end of the season.

"Time will tell. Time will tell really," said Cullen.

"You look back on the season and parts of it are a bit of a blur, really, aren't they?"

Nothing less than five points from the 'lambs to the slaughter' visit of bottom club Zebre will suffice back on Friday night.

"Ah, we have to focus on what's next, and what's next is Zebre," noted the coach.

The understandable excuses of a short turnaround and players coming in and out won't wash when the last two rounds of the Champions Cup are upon Leinster.

"We definitely need to get into a bit of a rhythm now because of the disjointed nature of the season.


"We're in a seven-game block and it's not like we're in a seven-game block where we're all together.

"There's chopping and changing in the middle of that. There's various stages (of the season) where we need to get continuity and build.

"But there's 22 Pro12 games, six European games and we just need to make sure everyone is very clear on what it is we're trying to do. We're still a little bit off in terms of having that clarity of purpose."

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